Hunting with hounds is traditionally the pursuit of 'quarry', usually foxes, with a pack of hounds, members of the hunt usually follow on horseback cross country controlling the hounds. In more modern times other people who wish to ride with the hunt can pay a fee, either by event or each season to be invited to hunting meets, and ride behind the hunt. Some supporters following in cars or on foot can also pay a membership to be invited to the meets, they follow the hunt often watching from the road. Because of this, hunting with hounds in the UK became a somewhat commercialised operation, with hunt masters, 'whipper-ins', and other hunt staff being officially employed by the hunt, usually full time. Hunting with hounds is steeped in historical traditions developed over hundreds of years, such as the practice of 'blooding' (smearing the blood of the killed animal on the hunters face) newer hunters after a kill as a means of congratulations.
Hunting live mammals with a pack of hounds was banned with the 2004 Hunting Act came into force; this prohibited the use of a pack of hounds to chase animals, however hunts have stated that they've changed their practice to conform with the law, either by hunting a laid scent trail or using legal exceptions, such as the 'bird of prey exemption'.
Many believe that hunts are continuing to illegally hunt live animals, especially after many high-profile cases of hunts killing foxes and other animals. Large amounts of video evidence has been submitted to the courts and prosecutions have been made. An example of this was the Fitzwilliam hunt, in Cambridgeshire; the now retired hunt master was "convicted of using hounds to kill a fox on January 1 2016. [...] Prosecutor Joe Bird labelled Mr Mease, a falconer employed by the hunt, and his eagle as a ‘smokescreen’ used by the hunt to allow it to continue as it had before the The Fitzwillam hunt is still active and rides out with hounds to this day.
In addition to hunting convictions, accusations of corruption among police and other authorities, as well as conflicts of interest have been brought to the attention of groups such as the HSA and League Against Cruel Sports. Some cases of conflict of interest have made it to media publications, such as the case of a police officer clashing with activists while off duty and following the hunt with fellow hunt supporters.
Because of the many accusations against hunts, as well as multiple convictions, the CCW aims to investigate illegal hunting with hounds, as well as protect and rescue animals affected by it. Below are a list of active operations we have in place to achieve these goals.
What you can do to help.
Joining the CCW or making a one off donation is the best way you can help the CCW tackle this complex issue for wildlife, with many avenues to investigate the task of taking on illegal forms of hunting with hounds is vast.
If you are aware illegal hunting with hounds is currently taking place dial 999 immediately. Make sure to take down as much evidence as you can, such as number plates and the description of vehicles and suspects. If you can, film what is happening. Do not approach. Illegal hunters have become violent with landowners and police in the past. If you are aware that illegal hunting with hounds has happened, or will take place, dial 101 and report it to the police. You can also submit information via our "report wildlife crime" tool.
What we're doing.
Below is a list of active operations the CCW has against illegal hunting.
During the course of 2020/2021 traditional fox hunting season we will be investigating accusations of illegal fox hunting. This cross department operation will involve the use of our Wildlife Protection Officers, and external organisations to investigate and identify cases where we believe there is violations of the 2004 Hunting Act.
In addition to this we will also provide emergency veterinary care where needed.